‘The Shrapnel Finds Us Wherever We Hide’
Sudan’s Janjaweed are back. Only this time they’re better armed.
This year started with hardly a bomb dropped, a sharp contrast to the 816 dropped in January of last year alone. But since the offensive began in late March, the rate of bombing has increased, keeping farmers from tilling their fields.
“ Every day, they bombed; every day, it was impossible to farm,” said Mohamed Nalteen, the mayor of Kau, a rebel-controlled area in the Nuba Mountains, adding that there has been virtually no food in his area since June of last year.
According to a recent report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, an organization that monitors trends in food insecurity, both South Kordofan and Blue Nile face acute food shortages, mainly among internally displaced populations. Food production this year is projected to be 55 percent lower than last year, in part because of adverse weather conditions.
Some war-stricken areas are already facing famine. The South Kordofan and Blue Nile States Food Security Monitoring Unit, an independent organization that uses local monitors to assess food security levels, reported that 242 people, including 24 children, died of hunger-related illnesses in the second half of 2015 in the rebel-controlled Warni and Kau-Nyaro areas of South Kordofan.
The new government strategy hasn’t paid any military dividends: Sources on both sides of the conflict say that the SPLM-N repulsed nearly all of the government’s attacks, preventing it from gaining much territory. The rebel army also captured considerable military hardware. But the conflict remains largely frozen — and with little chance for a military victory on either side.
Diplomacy, too, has proved maddeningly slow. In March, peace talks failed for the 11th time. Neither side treats its counterpart as a credible broker for peace: The government has breached five peace deals with various rebel groups since 2005, and factionalism within the rebel coalition has made it unreliable in negotiations.
While the political impasse continues, it is the civilians of South Kordofan and Blue Nile who suffer the most. James Mohamed is a student at Tongoli Primary School in rebel-controlled Delami County. He is tired of government planes flying overhead, disrupting class. Whenever they hear the sound of an Antonov bomber, the entire class runs for the fox holes that have been dug near the school.
“War is always against education,” Mohamed said. “They [the government and rebels] should sit down and talk, as much as the government [is] bombing us. We are all Sudanese; nothing should push us to such wars.”
Just weeks after he spoke with Foreign Policy, a Sudanese Antonov bombed Tongoli Primary yet again, killing a teacher at the school.